Learning the Art of Display | State Library of New South Wales

Learning the Art of Display

The discovery of gold in NSW in 1851 greatly swelled both the population and the wealth of the
colonies. This increased the market for consumer goods, which in turn saw a growth in the number and types of shops in Australia. The appearance of shops was also transformed by advances in technology and building materials.

The introduction of gas lighting (1841) allowed extended trading hours in Sydney, while
the availability of plate glass promoted the use of large display windows (1854). Elegant, gas-lit
glass shopfronts encouraged the lavish display of merchandise, which raised window dressing to an art form, ushering in the practice of late-night browsing by ‘window shopping’ pedestrians.

The idea of displaying goods attractively, so they might be seen clearly by potential purchasers,
had been a retail innovation of the 18th century. The mid-19th century craze for large-scale industrial exhibitions, with their opulent arrangements of products sourced from all over the world, drove it to new heights.